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He missed a trip to the GABF, but his beer won gold in Pro-Am competition

The story behind this year’s pro-am winning beer and Long Island home brewer Brian Giebel

Great South Bay Brewery owner Rick Sobotka, Brian Giebel and lead brewer Jon Gomez (photo courtesey Great South Bay Brewery)

Great South Bay Brewery owner Rick Sobotka, home brewer Brian Giebel and GSB lead brewer Jon Gomez  brewing Muscat Love. (photo courtesy Great South Bay Brewery)

By Alan J. Wax

A new job prevented a high school chemistry teacher from Babylon, New York from attending the Great American Beer Festival and its annual awards ceremony. But minutes after the first gold medal was announced for the festival’s Pro-Am competition, Brian Giebel, stopped grading his students’ work to answer his phone.

Pitcher of Muscat Love at GABF's Pro-Am tasting table

Pitcher of Muscat Love at GABF’s Pro-Am tasting table

On the line at 10:15 a.m. Mountain Time was Phil Ebel V, chief operations officer at the Great South Bay Brewery (GSB) of Bay Shore. The reason for the Sept. 26 call: to tell Giebel that the beer he initially entered in a local home brew competition and later brewed at GSB for the Pro-Am competition, Muscat Love, had just been awarded a gold medal, topping 91 other brews that were collaborations between home brewers and commercial breweries.

“I told him we won—he won—the gold medal,” Ebel said. “He asked, ‘Are you kidding?’ ”Just days after the medal ceremony, Ebel recalled, “I was pretty crazy. It’s Its really an incredible feeling to sit down for the awards ceremony and win gold within five minutes of sitting down.”

Ebel and his GSB colleagues had arrived at the ceremony at the Colorado Convention Center hopeful that Muscat Love would have a chance in competition with 90 other brews. “It’s a fantastic beer,” said Ebel. But when the gold was announced, Ebel recalled, “I was speechless. I was over the moon”

GSB also won a gold medal for its Hog Cabin Maple Bacon Porter in the specialty beer category, which had 59 entrants. The 2015 Great American Beer Festival (GABF) competition awarded 275 medals to some of the best commercial breweries in the United States, plus three GABF Pro-Am medals. (You can view the 2015 winners or download a PDF list of the winners.) Presented by the Brewers Association, GABF is the largest commercial beer competition in the world and a symbol of brewing excellence.

Muscat Love labelThe story behind this year’s pro-am gold winner goes back a decade, when Giebel, now 40, started home brewing. Giebel, who now dreams of going pro, produced Muscat Love, a Belgian-style triple that used canned Muscat grape puree instead of candi sugar as a fermentable, on his 10-gallon, garage- housed system. Giebel had intended to use the grape puree in another brew, but decided instead to brew a tripel, because, he said, “I liked that style and that yeast character and thought it would work well with the grapes.” He entered into a competition for members held monthly by Long Island Beer and Malt Enthusiasts, a home brew club. Each monthly winner is brewed on GSB’s 1-barrel pilot system and sold in the brewery’s taproom.

Earlier this year, Ebel, brewery owner Rick Sobotka and Andrew Luberto, a national Beer Judge Certification Program home brew judge, selected Muscat Love from among the club’s half-dozen winners of the past year, including an IPA, a pre-Prohibition-style lager with chilies and a gose, to enter in the Pro-Am.

“We felt Brian’s beer was the best tasting and most complex out of all of them,” Ebel said..

Days after the Sept. 26 award announcement, Giebel, who has a PhD in chemistry, says he’s still stoked about becoming a hero home brewer. “It was a little surreal. I never really thought I had a shot at it.”

And, he adds that winning the Pro-Am, could provide new impetus to his aim to go pro. “This ramps up my interested a hundred fold to get things going.”

 

 

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Great American Beer Festival tickets go on sale; steps taken to curb scalpers

GABF_Logo_LRG_V_RGBBy Alan J. Wax

It’s just about that time of year, again. And you’ll have to act quickly.

Tickets for the annual Great American Beer Festival (GABF), to be held Oct. 2-4 in Denver, go on sale July 30 at Noon (EDT) via Ticketmaster.com. And event organizers are taking steps to curb scalpers who may have contributed in past years to the event’s sellout in a matter of minutes.

Members of the Brewers Association and the American Homebrewers Association may buy up to two advance tickets until July 20. Admission to the Saturday, Oct. 4 afternoon session will be AHA and BA member, but the number of tickets is limited.

Tickets are $80 per session. Designated driver tickets are $25.

The scene at 2103 GABF (Brewers Association photo)

The scene at 2103 GABF (Brewers Association photo)

Last year, general admission tickets to the nation’s biggest beer event sold out in just 20 minutes and a sellout this year is expected again. Last year’s sell out led to speculatation that scalpers were attempting to corner the market.

GABF organizers said on the event‘s web site that they are attempting to deal with scalpers.

This year, general admission ticket buyers will be limited to four tickets and organizers further stated: “Unfortunately, the secondary market for popular tickets persists, despite many efforts to thwart it …There are measures in place to decrease access for scalpers, including the ticket limits that we set for GABF ticket purchases and Ticketmaster’s anti-bot and other security measures in their selling system. (Ticketmaster reviews all purchases to enforce our GABF ticket limits.) Again, though, while this decreases access, it unfortunately does not prevent a secondary market. To ensure you have a valid ticket, purchase tickets from authorized outlets only.”

The festival at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver is expected to draw up to 49,000 attendees over four sessions who will have the opportunity to sample almost 3,000 beers from about 700 U.S. breweries.

 

 

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Brewers Association lists 5 new beer styles in just released 2014 guidelines

BA_logo-185Five new beer styles are contained in the Brewers Association’s (BA) newly revised beer style guidelines.

The guidelines, dated March 10, were announced publicly on April 22 in an Examiner.com blog by BA president Charlie Papazian on April 22, almost two weeks since the conclusion of the annual Craft Brewers Conference in Denver, Colorado. Last year, the guidelines were announced in a BA press release a month prior to annual brewers gathering. The BA is a trade group for America’s small and independent craft brewers

The new styles announced are: Belgian-Style Fruit Beer, Australian-Style Pale Ale (spun off from Australasian-Style Pale Ale), Asian-Style Pale Ale (spun off from Australasian-Style Pale Ale), Dutch-Style Kuit (Kuyt, Koyt), Historical Beer (previous part of Indigenous beer) and Wild Beer

In addition, there were substantial revisions to the guidelines for American-Style Fruit Beer and Herb and Spice Beer.

All of the latest guidelines were rewritten to follow a standard format of appearance, aroma, flavor, body, etc., Papazian wrote in his posting. “This format follows the sensory experience,” he explained. “Many style groups were reorganized within historical groups in an order of roughly increasing original gravity and alcohol content. Also, style origins were clarified

BA  guidelines are often changed and new styles get added to the list with almost regularity. But when the BA published its 2013 guidelines  early that year – prior to the annual Craft Brewers Conference – for the Polish beer style Grodzisz, or Grodziske or Grätzer, they set off a loud public debate over ingredients and origin that ultimately resulted in the BA revisiting the guidelines for that style and rewriting them.

Charlie Papazian

Charlie Papazian

Last year, amid the controversy, Papazian told me that the guidelines, which are used to judge beers at the Great American Beer Festival and the World Beer Cup, are constantly evolving and that in any give year only a couple of style definitions might be tweaked or as many as a dozen. “The trick is to stay relevant,” he said, explaining that the guidelines try to reflect the innovation that is taking place in the brewing community while preserving traditional styles. “That can be a balancing act. People like to tinker around.”

Papazian with assistance from BA director Paul Gatza and BA technical director Chris Swersey using comments from GABF and World Beer Cup judges, essentially, wrote the guidelines as he has since 1979.

The new style definitions can be found in pdf format at the BA’s web site.

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Coors, Oregon, California, Pennsylvania and Kansas brewers take top honors at largest-ever World Beer Cup awards

World Beer Cup awards awaiting presentation (Brewers Association photo)

World Beer Cup awards awaiting presentation (Brewers Association photo)

By Alan J. Wax

A small brewery in Oregon, a mid-sized California brewer and American beer giant Coors Brewing Co. each won top awards at the 2014 Brewers Association World Beer Cup awards, described by the group’s president as the “Olympics of beer competition.” Brewpubs in Pennsylvania and Kansas took home top honors in the brew pub category.

In all 284 awards were presented April 10 in Denver, where the bi-annual competition was conducted just prior to the annual Craft Brewers Conference. The awards were presented April 10 at the conclusion of Craft Brewers Conference.

The Boulder, Colo.-based Brewers Association (BA), the trade group representing America’s small and independent craft brewers, calls the World Beer Cup one of the world’s largest global commercial beer competitions. This year’ s competition drew 4,754 beers from over 1,403 breweries located in 58 countries – the largest number of entrants in the competition’s history.  “This was huge,” Chris Swerzey, competition director, said prior to announcing the awards.

Brewers from five continents earned awards from an international panel of judges at this 10th biennial competition, with brewers from 22 countries—ranging from Australia and Brazil to Taiwan and the United Kingdom—honored.

The judges awarded 281 out of 282 total possible awards, reflecting the chance for one gold, one silver and one bronze in each of 94 beer style categories.

This year’s event was particularly competitive, the BA said, noting that the proportion of winning breweries garnering one or more awards was 18 percent, compared to 27 percent in 2012. Only three breweries won more than one award; 26 took two awards and 226 won one award.

“Brewers from around the globe participate in the World Beer Cup to win recognition for their creativity and brewing skills,” said BA president Charlie Papazian. “For a brewer, a World Beer Cup gold award allows them to say that their winning beer represents the best of that beer style in the world.”

A panel of 219 judges from 31 countries working in teams conducted blind tasting evaluations of the beers to determine the awards. They included professional brewers and brewing industry experts; 76 percent were from outside the United States.

The category with the most entries was American-Style India Pale Ale, with 223 entries followed by American-Style Pale Ale, with 121 entries and Wood- and Barrel-Aged Strong Beer, with 111 entries.

The competition also presented Champion Brewery and Champion Brewmaster awards in each of five brewery categories based on the awards won by each brewery.

The 2014 five Champion Brewery/Brewmaster award winners were:

Small Brewing Company Category: Pelican Brewery of Pacific City, Ore; Darron Welch and Steve Panos

Mid-Size Brewing Company Category: Coronado Brewing Co. of Coranado Calif., near San Diego; Coronado Brewing Co. team.

Large Brewing Company Category: Coors Brewing, Golden, Colo.; Dr. David Ryder.

Small Brewpub Category: Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant, Media, Pa.; Iron Hill Brewery team.

Large Brewpub Category: Blind Tiger Brewery & Restaurant, Topeka, Kan.; John Dean.

The complete list of winners can be downloaded at the competition’s home page.

 

 

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Brewers Association, wary of decline in quality, urges homebrewers-turned-pro to boost quality control

Audience at the 2014 Craft Brewers Conference in Denver

Audience at the 2014 Craft Brewers Conference in Denver
(Brewers Association photo)

By Alan J. Wax

The Brewers Association (BA) says its concerned about declining quality of craft beer.

Paul Gatza, director of the Brewers Association

Paul Gatza

Speaking on April 9 in Denver at the annual Craft Brewers Conference, BA director Paul Gatza said that while the number of breweries, beer production, revenues and exports have climbed, quality has fallen. The Boulder, Colo.-based BA sponsors the conference, which this year attracted about 9,000 attendees.

“It’s a big issue,” Gatza told a media teleconference from the gathering. “We hate to see this segment being brought down with people having bad experiences in their glass when they’re trying craft beer. They’re maybe less likely to try something new in the future if they are having a bad experience from the last brewery they tried.”

Earlier, speaking to the brewers, he told about  visiting a beer fest and sampling a number of poor quality offerings, Gatza told new craft brewers: “Don’t f*ck it up.”   

Gatza said some new professional brewers, among them former home brewers, are not putting out beer quality that reflects well on the whole industry.”

BA_logo-185“A lot of people start in this industry as homebrewers who are told by their friends that they’re making good beer and you should go pro,” Gatza said. “A lot of them do and they try to do it on a shoestring. Try to do it on a small level and get bigger. They get their licenses. They make their first commercial beer and their friends say this is so great. But in truth what people who really know about beer are finding [is] that a lot of these newer brewers are not putting out quality that reflects well on the whole craft community. There are some off flavors at times.

He urged the newcomers need to step back and spend more time on the science of beer making and urged them to use outside labs to measure bacteria counts and other benchmarks.

Not all the blame, he said, falls on the brewers and noted that some fault belongs to retailers who fail to clean their draft lines or don’t clean their glassware property.

Bart Watson

Bart Watson

Brewers Association economist Bart Watson, meanwhile told the conference that the industry’s growth streak continues. The stats are available in an online Power Point presentation.

Craft brewing volume grew 18 percent, to 15.6 million barrels in 2013, up by 2.3 million, even as the overall U.S. beer market declined 2 percent.

Craft beer’s market share, meanwhile, grew to 7.8 percent last year and is predicted to grow further. In dollars, craft beer garnered a 14.3 percent share, $14.3 billion out of a total $100 billion in sales.

The U.S. had 2,768 breweries at the end of 2013, with 1,744 in the planning stages. By the end of last month, the number of operating breweries had grown to 2,866. Of those, 99 percent are craft breweries.

Robert Pease

Robert Pease

BA Chief Operating Officer Robert Pease said U.S. craft brewers exported 282,526 barrels last year, up 49 percent from 2012. The top foreign markets were Canada, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Australia and Japan.

“The word is out that the best beer in the world is being made by American craft brewers,” Pease said.

Gatza said the BA has what he called an “aspirational” goal for the craft brewing industry to hit 20 percent market share by the end of the decade. But it’s not a slam-dunk, he admitted.

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Sips and nibbles at Brewers Association’s NYC SAVOR event

The crowd at Savor 2013 in New York City

The crowd at Savor 2013 in New York City

Two standout beers, Bell’s Raspberry Wild One and Schafly’s Single Malt Scottish Ale, made the event especially memorable along with some unique food pairings. Black dresses, kilts and top hat and tails.

Judging by the crowds, SAVOR, the Brewers Association’s craft beer and food-pairing event, held in New York City last week for the first time, was a success.

For two nights, adjoining high-ceilinged event spaces in Chelsea, the Metropolitan Pavilion and the Altman Building, once respectively the B. Altman Department Store and the other its carriage house, became an upscale beer festival as thousands of beer aficionados and foodies filled the enormous spaces to sample brews from 76 small and independent American breweries and sample gourmet eats paired to match152 brews.

And what an eclectic crowd! More than a few attendees were dressed for a night on the town in suit and tie or black dresses. Others wore blue jeans. One gent on Saturday night had on a kilt and another a top hat and tails.

Obscure brewers from the East, West and center of the country, as well as craft beer royalty, could be found on the floor pouring their wares. Among the industry leaders I spotted were Larry Bell of Bell’s Brewery, Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head, Dick Cantwell of Elysian Brewing, Steve Hindy and Garrett Oliver of Brooklyn Brewery and Kim Jordan of New Belgium. Also there: BA founder Charlie Papazian.

The $175-a-person ticket price, considerably more than an admission to a session of the Great American Beer Festival in which 400 plus breweries participate, may have been a deterrent to larger crowds, I suspect. And salons with guided, small-scale tastings were additional. The price tag was understandable. New York City costs are high.

The edibles by and large, was delectable, though just mouth-sized morsels, some repeated at various tables. Not a surprise since so many of beers represented were similar in style. There were 33 IPAs, 20 Belgian-style ales, 10 Imperial IPAs and 10 saisons. I can’t say I had the time to truly savor many pairings as others behind me waited to get a pour and a nibble of their own.

Bell's Wild OneSchafley ScotchTwo memorable beers stood out from the crowd. The first was Raspberry Wild One from Bell’s Brewing, a complex, flavor-packed Flanders-style red sour. The second, Single Malt Scottish Ale from St. Louis’ Schafly Beer, a 10.2 percent abv wee heavy brewed with Optic malt and aged in used Highland Scotch whisky barrels from the Glen Garioch Distillery.  More like a wee dram than a wee heavy with notes of vanilla, smoky peat and caramel and orange peel.

It’s not easy to design a menu around beer. There’s a need for synergy between the food and the beer. And in many cases the matches were terrific.

Among the notable pairings I enjoyed were Cigar City’s Jose Marti stout with glazed short rib of beer with soft polenta and crispy leeks, Elysian’s Avatar Jasmine IPA with celery shortbread cookie, The Lost Abbey’s Deliverance with seaweed nougat with honey and sesame and Bronx Breweery Belgian Pale Ale with goat cheese cheesecake with crunchy caramel corn.

The SAVOR food menu was planned by the BA’s culinary consultant Adam Dulye, a James Beard Award-semifinalist and chef/owner of The Monk’s Kettle and The Abbot’s Cellar in San Francisco, who worked with a group of chefs and Cicerones specializing in beer and food pairings.

“When it comes to pairings, one of the key aspects that sets craft beer apart is the fact that there are multiple beer styles to complement and contrast nearly any food or flavor profile,” Julia Herz, BA craft beer program director, said in a statement. “This is evident both in the broad variety of styles that craft brewers served at SAVOR 2013 and in the palate expanding experience from the pairing menu.”

SAVOR 2013 marked the first time the event has been held outside of Washington, D.C., its home since 2008. It returns to the nation’s capital on May 9 and 10, 2014.  Who’s going?

 

 

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Ommegang, Brooklyn, Saranac team up to brew Savor commemorative beer

Brewery Ommegang in Cooperstown, Brooklyn Brewery and Saranac in Utica have teamed up to brew a New York collaboration beer for the Brewers Association’s Savor beer and food pairing event in New York City on June 14-15.

Called New York Limited, the special beer is described by the brewers as a strong white lager—a wheat beer with spicing. It was brewed at Brooklyn Brewery. Fermented with lager yeast, the beer will be bottle-conditioned with ale yeast.  New York state ingredients were used as much as possible, including honey, multiple spices, including lemon verbena, and New York State hops.

New-York-Limited_front-labelThe brew will be presented as an exit gift to Savor attendees in a 750 ml corked and caged bottle.

New York Limited is the third consecutive year that a collaboration brew was produced for Savor.  In 2011, Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, of Milton, Del., and Boston’s Samuel Adams brewed Savor Flower, a 10 percent ABV, oak aged beer brewed with rose water. Last year, Boulevard Brewing Co. of Kanas City, and Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., of Chico, Calif., created Terra Incognita, which was brewed with Sierra’s estate grown malt and finished in Missouri oak barrels with Boulevard’s strain of the Belgian Brettanomyces yeast.

Tickets to Savor, which will take place at the Altman Building on West 18th St., remain available through Ticketmaster,  according to the craft brewer trade group, sponsor of the event.

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Craft brewing industry defender award goes to Empire’s David Katleski

David Katletski at the award presentation.

David Katletski at the award presentation.

David Katleski, owner of Syracuse’s Empire Brewing Co. and the president of the New York State Brewers Association, received the Brewers Association’s F.X. Matt Defender of the Industry award the annual Craft Brewers Conference in Washington, D.C.

The award, presented March 27 by Dick Cantwell, president of Elysian Brewing in Seattle, Wash., is named for the late F.X. Matt of Utica’s F.X. Matt Brewing Co., producer of Saranac beer.

Named in honor of F.X. Matt, the late president and chairman of the Utica-based maker of Saranc beers,  F.X. Matt Brewing Co. – a champion of small brewers until his death in 2001 – the award is given annually by the Brewers Association, a Boulder, Colo.-based industry group, to someone in the beer industry who has championed small brewers.

Katleski founded Empire as a brewpub in Syracuse in 1994 and in 2010 also began producing beer in Brooklyn.

He also founded and is president of the New York State Brewers Association, a trade group representing about 100 craft brewers in the state. Last year, Katleski figure prominently in winning several brewer-friendly New York state laws, including a measure that gives tax breaks to brewers using ingredients grown in the state, another that protects small brewers in their contracts with distributors and a roll-back of some tax increases brought about by a court decision.

Katleski also represented the New York brewing industry at Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Wine, Beer and Spirits Summit in October, where he voiced brewers’ concerns directly to the governor

“This star of brewing shows what it takes to survive and flourish in a crowded field,” Cantwell told the audience of about 6,000 brewers and allied industry people at the presentation. He cited the excellent quality of Empire’s beers, its use of locally produced ingredients in the brewpub’s food and its use of renewable energy.

 

 

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Tickets to SAVOR beer and food event in NYC go on sale next month

Tickets to SAVOR 2013, the Brewers Association’s annual craft beer and food showcase to be held in New York City June 14-15, go on sale to the public April 17, the craft beer industry group announced.

Members of the American Homebrewers Association and the Brewers Association, however, can get a one-day head start for a limited number of tickets for the two sessions, both of which run from 7:30-11 p.m.

savor_1_postThe event, which features beer and food pairings, will take place at the Altman Building, an event space, and the adjoining Metropolitan Pavilion, 125 W. 18th St., Manhattan. For the past five years the event was held in Washington, D.C.

Attendees will be able to sample beers from 76 small and independent U.S. breweries, hailing from 31 states and a diverse array of food pairings designed by Chef Adam Dulye, co-owner/chef of San Francisco’s The Monk’s Kettle and James Beard Award-semifinalist Abbot’s Cellar. Brewers will participate in private salons during the two evenings.

Tickets for the grand tasting are $170, while tickets for the grand tasting and private salons are $195. The brewers group said tickets in the past have sold out in a matter of minutes.

“With the craft beer industry continuing to expand at an extraordinary rate, SAVOR takes the opportunity to showcase the contribution America’s small and independent craft brewers have made to the advancing food arts world,” the Brewers Association, based in Boulder, Colo., said in a press release. “This unique experience allows beer lovers to gain a better understanding of the diverse offerings from today’s brewers and why craft beer is gaining a place at restaurants and homes across the country”

The list of beers to be served is available on the event web site.

The pre-sale tickets can be purchased beginning at Noon (EDT) on April 16 via the web sites for the American Homebrewers Association  and the Brewers Association.

Tickets will be available to the general public beginning at Noon (EDT) on April 17 through Ticketmaster.

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Brewers Association Scherer Award Given to New Belgium’s Bouckaert

New Belgian brewmaster Peter Bouckaert wins Scherer Award.

New Belgium’s Peter Bouckaert wins Scherer Award.

The Brewers Association, the trade group representing America’s independent brewers, gave its 2013 Russell Scherer Award for Innovation in Brewing to Peter Bouckaert, brewmaster at New Belgium Brewing Co., Fort Collins, Co.

The award, presented March 27 at the BA’s annual Craft Brewers Conference in Washington, D.C. was first given in 1997 to honor Russell Scherer, who died in 1996 at 38 years old. A creative force in brewing in the nineties, Schehrer was a founding partner and original head brewer at Colorado’s first brewpub, Wynkoop Brewing Co. He was also one of the first brewers to produce mead, doppel alt, cream stout and chili beer.

Dick Cantwell, head brewer and co-owner of Elysian Brewing in Seattle, in presenting the award noted that Bouchaert has been experimenting with fermentation techniques and unusual ingredients, and cited New Belgian’s La Foliie sour beer.

Bouckaert joined New Belgium in 1996 after 10 years at Belgium’s Rodenbach Brewery, known for its sour beers . He studied brewing at Hogeschool Gent.

“Who am I to stand here? I have an amazing bunch of co-workers,” Bouckaert said in accepting the award. Bouckaert, a native of Belgium, said the United States “is the most inventive country in beer.”

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